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Anatomy of Larb

Larb is a Southeast Asian minced meat salad with many spellings (larb, laab, larp, laap, lahb, lob, lop, and the list goes on) and a few variants (Isan or Lanna, from Laos or Thailand). But when most people speak about larb, they refer to it fondly as a dish that takes them back to the streets of Thailand, or at least their favorite Thai restaurant. Although the dish is straightforward, it is far from simplistic. As chef Louis Tikaram of E.P. & L.P. explains, there could be close to 30 ingredients in one plate.

Click the hotspots below to learn more about the ingredients tossed into larb.

More About Larb

Regional Cuisine

Thai cuisine is "insanely diverse." Thailand breaks up into four different regions: central, southern, northern, and northeastern (Isan), each with different languages, food traditions and ingredients emerging from different environments. Bangkok is located in the central region, where the cuisine is characterized by curries and Chinese influence. This is the type of food most familiar to westerners (though this is changing, especially in Los Angeles). Southern dishes are the spiciest and typically include coconut milk and seafood. Northern cuisine is characterized by herby, brothy, boiled (or fried) pork. Northeastern dishes tend to be heavier on lime, such as the green papaya salad som tum. The origin of laap, a dish in the same family as larb but including raw meat and blood, is debatable, as people from both northern and northeastern Thailand claim the dish. 

Isaan

Larb is said to have originated in Laos but today, the dish is regional to Laos and Isaan (or Isan), the northeastern region of Thailand bordering Laos and Cambodia. The largest region of Thailand is where most of the nation's rice is grown and has a rich Khmer era history going back at least 5,000 years. Although it's the area least frequented by tourists, Isaan is known for it's specific regional cuisine and, unfortunately, for its underdevelopment and civil unrest.

Digital Street Food

In an effort to attract more tourists to northeastern Thailand, the Thai government created a mobile app to help visitors find street food stalls and restaurants by name, type of food desired or location.

 

Learn more about Thai cuisine and its evolution on "The Migrant Kitchen" S3 E6: Louis & Jazz.

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